I never envisioned myself having children. Everyone told me having children was a very selfish act. I always thought the opposite because I knew once the bun was out that oven you started living life for someone else. To me, that’s the most selfless thing a person can do. It scared me because I was (and still am) a selfish person by nature.
But the biggest deal breaker? The physical part you have to endure in order to get the baby. I have a very low pain tolerance and so the thought of either pushing a child out of my nether regions or worse, having my child cut out of me, was unthinkable.
Yet at 31 years of age I discovered I was going to be a mother. I studied everything I could on labor and delivery, caring for an infant and surviving toddlerhood, then wish I hadn’t because no matter how hard you prepare, you are never prepared.
But on the first day of spring in March 2002, after three days of labor, my daughter was born. It was the most terrifying event of my life but I fell in love at 4:15pm with a tiny little creature who would one day call me, “Mama.”
When people tell you the old cliché of how fast the years will go, believe them. It will seem unimaginable at that moment of sleeplessness and lack of showers, but the people that tell you this have walked the road, they know.
Now on the cusp of turning 15, my daughter is everything I never even knew I wanted to be. Fierce, strong, opinionated, educated, independent and aware, she possesses grace and assurance as she lives out her beliefs. She has a whole life ahead of her, new experiences and opportunities await her. She has a chance in this messy world we live in to make a difference. She is coming of age at a pivotal time in our world and while I’m fearful for her and what she may encounter, I’m also hopeful. People like her are essential in creating change for the future.
At times I find myself jealous of my daughter. I wish I had half her tenacity when I was 15. Instead it consisted of boys and failed grades. And so I pray for her strength to endure and to always stand up for just causes, despite any backlash she may receive. She has a deep, abiding faith life and bases her choices on the core principles she has known since early childhood. That alone has the power to sustain her in times of adversity.
One of her biggest attributes is the fact she puts up with me. She endures my version of carpool karaoke and my Elaine from Seinfeld dance moves. She puts up with my attempts to clothes shop for her and my nagging about cleaning her room. She consoles me when a driver honks at me and I honk back. She graciously waves back when I yell, “I love you” as she gets out of the car for school.
While she is reading Metamorphosis by Frank Kafka and 1984 by George Orwell, I’m browsing Pinterest. She gets invited to protest rallies, I spend too much money at Home Goods. She attends LGBTQ groups as an ally to her gay and transgendered friends who lack support from their families while I sit at home, safe behind my computer screen. I don’t mean this as a comparison but I do mean it as my wake up call.
We have open, frank discussions, everything ranging from sex to our current government. The mind of a teen is so deep and complex. I will never fully understand how my daughter processes information or how she interprets her innermost thoughts but I’m grateful for a glimpse into her psyche and the truth she speaks.
For almost 15 years I’ve been expecting my daughter to learn from my example, to listen to me and to follow my lead. Turns out it should be the other way around. I have so much to learn from her.
(This post originally appeared on The Dalai Mama)